Fourteen years ago, as a college student ‘studying’ abroad in Rome, my classmates and I would frequently joke about our evening plans. “What should we have for dinner tonight?” one of us would ask. And the answer, inevitably, “How about Italian?” In 1992 it was possible to sniff out an outpost of some exotic repast. After seven months living there, for instance, I uncovered an Indian place in Trastevere and heard tell of a tapas joint, though it never materialized in the flesh. But the City was still remarkably homogeneous in its citizenry, and the food followed suit. Not that we could complain. We all ate extremely well. At neighborhood trattorie, cross town restauranti, and dozens of pizzerie, we gorged ourselves on the best food we had ever collectively had. And so it was doubly confounding to find, after countless bowls of pasta in limitless preparations, endless plates of marinated eggplant and zucchini, the obligatory whole fish alla griglia and portions of porchetta, pancetta and of course prosciutto, that we hungered for something, anything other than Italian. Preparing for a visit to Rome in Septmeber of 2006, I heard tell of Rome’s new ‘international’ style. Friends returning from there spoke of Irish pub food, French bistros, Cantonese, Ethiopian, and most alarmingly of all—fusion. This panoply of multi-ethnic foods is all well and good in a place like San Francisco, but Rome! I hated to think of my City, The Eternal City, home to not only the Pantheon, but also to Papandrou’s Greek Palace, to Campo dei Fiori as well as Chokichi Sushi. In the face of this new and ‘improved” Rome, how could I possibly relive my Italian debauches? I needn’t have worried. Yes, Rome is slightly more modernized, but there is still PLENTY of amazingly good, traditional Italian and/or Roman food. What follows is a short list of the standouts. If you go to Rome in the future, do seek these places out. Hosteria del Pesce Via di Monserrato, 32 39 06 6865617 Just down the street from the Piazza Farnese, this place is easy to miss. The non-descript, unmarked door is just about blocked by a few plastic ice buckets full of tiny clams, live langoustines and bracingly fresh fish. Inside the place is very lively, casual and loud. If you haven’t guessed it from the name, this is a fish place. And that’s all they have. Cold seafood platters, pasta tossed with seafood, and then more seafood. Everything is insanely fresh. We even ate entire raw shrimp, heads and all! The wine list is all Italian, naturally, almost completely white, and very well priced. The staff are great and quite patient (there isn’t really a menu. Just tell them to bring whatever they suggest; it will be wonderful!). Reserve in advance. La Sora Lella Via Ponte Quattro Capi, 16 39 06 6861601 Located on the Isola Tiburina, in the middle of the Tiber river, this place is old world, though elegant, and serves a slightly updated take on Roman food, which means salt cod (or baccala) and slow roasted meats, as well as some of the best pasta dishes we tried in Italy. The wine list is impressive, too. Romantic tiny dining room. One of my dishes, ravioli filled with cheese and tossed with a sauce of pureed black truffles, was among the top five things I have ever eaten in my life! Reserve in advance. Trattoria St. Teodoro Via dei Fienili, 49-50-51 39 06 6780933 A quick walk from the Forum, this is just the place to carb load after a grueling morning of ancient roman sightseeing. Very local, which is surprising given its proximity to several big tourist destinations. Most the people eating here for lunch seemed to be Italian government officials, all men, and all dressed impeccably, of course! The food is refined classic Italian, with an emphasis on fish, and the pastas are all superb. The wine list is long and impressive in all regions of Italy. There is even a water list for various mineral waters, still and sparkling! Not cheap, but serious food. Roscioli Via dei Giubbonari, 21-22 39 06 6875287 This wine bar is easily reachable from Campo dei Fiori, right in the center of historic Rome. There is an amazing selection of cheeses (you can order a European cheese plate, an Italian plate, or a regional plate, with cheeses from only Lazio, say, or Umbria), sliced cured meats and, of course, wines. Just the place to check out for a ‘smaller’ size meal. And the hipster staff includes a young woman from Canada, which makes ordering something from the wine list a whole lot easier. Enjoy! --Elisabeth Schriber
The holidays are back again? It just seemed like yesterday that we were celebrating New Years and now Thanksgiving is around the corner. It seems life moves at a quick pace the older you get. Remember the days when one could sleep 12 hours with no problem. Those days are over for me. Relaxing is a little tougher these days. Yoga sure helps as does a nice glass of wine… or two. I hope these wines can help you relax during this hectic holiday period. 2004 Eric K James “Bernache Block” Carneros Chardonnay ($14.99) I don’t often write about Chardonnay but this is something special. The wine was prevented from undergoing malolactic fermentation to preserve fruit and crispness and was aged for 11 months sur lie in neutral oak. This shows crispness that highlights its beautiful fruit. Only 89 cases made. 2005 A to Z Oregon Pinot Noir ($16.99) Another great vintage from this Oregon negociant. Sourced fruit from all the great Oregon producers and put it together to showcase the great pinot produce up north. Clear and vibrant, this wine has a beautiful dark color and aromas of mixed berries, earth, smoke, violets, Asian spices and minerals. 2003 Forth “All Boys” Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon ($18.99) All Boys is the happy outcome of the blending of Cabernet grown in the vineyards of the Forths’ two sons, four grandsons and that of a beautiful neighboring vineyard owned by five brothers. Bright, bountiful berries and cherries, toasty oak and supple tannins combine to create a delightfully accessible Cabernet. See you in the City... —Michael Jordan
I’ll be frank: I’m often not a big fan of California wine. When I drink wine, I drink with food, and I don’t want something that will overpower my palate and the flavors that I’m serving it with. But, there’s no reason why local wine can’t play friendly with food, and the 1987 Joseph Swan Zinfandel is a perfect example. In fact, it exemplifies common problems with most modern West Coast wines. Even the lightest of modern Zins dwarf the Swan’s 12.5% alcohol, and most North Coast wineries would do everything in their power to avoid Swan’s lovely acidity. Recently tasted blind with a bunch of like-minded winos, no one guessed the Swan and many pegged it for an Italian wine. It’s a logical guess, considering that the fathers of the modern California wine industry were Italian immigrants whose main goal was to have something to drink with dinner. The modern irony is that the Zinfandel favored by early Californians for its tangy acid is being ripened to raisins. Lately many classic Italian varieties that those farmers were trying to replicate are being treated the same way. Because of this over-the-top treatment Cal-Ital wines are often challenged by the first rule of new world wine; they lack “varietal correctness.” Fortunately, the wines from Palmina in Santa Barbara County buck the bigger-is-better trend. Steve and Chrystal Clifton have an obvious love of northern Italian wines (they were married in Friuli). Moreover they understand how to use Italian grape varieties with integrity. The 2003 Palmina Stolpman Vineyard Nebbiolo ($31.99) has the tar and violets of a Langhe wine. The 2005 Palmina Alisos Vineyard Traminer ($21.99) tastes more like the minerals of that variety’s Tyrolean home than the sweet perfume of most domestic (or even Alsatian) Gewurz. Palmina wines are meant for the table. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste these distinctive wines. —Paul Courtright
Bid on this...we're pleased to be conducting fine wine auctions in addition to our retail selection of thousands of the world's best wines.
Bid, buy, sell, and browse the hundreds of auction lots live on K&L Auctions.
Back in the 1970's we went by the name "K&L Liquors" and our dedication to bringing you the finest spirits remains the same.
View our Spirits Journal to find out what our buyers are getting into next...